When it comes to wearable tech in the running arena, GPS watches from the likes of Garmin and Polar rule the roost. However, slowly but surely, we've seen more smaller companies enter the field, catering for both seasoned athletes and new beginners.
And rather than taking a swing at a product category that so many giants appear to have sewn up, these startups are embracing burgeoning technologies such as smart running shoes, more advanced running pods and even connected insoles.
Bookmark this: Welcome to the Future of Running Week
But which startups are the ones to watch in 2018 and beyond? We've rounded up the names we think are set to make big strides over the coming year.
Let us know in the comments below if there's any running wearable tech you're excited for this year.
Sensoria has been on the scene for a few years, but it's still very much a startup and one that's offering innovative wearables built for runners.
It started with smart socks and now it's turned its attention to footwear, using its Core module technology and AI-powered virtual coach Mara to help running shoe brands like British-based Vivobarefoot smarten up a pair of its minimalist trail running shoes.
The shoe will be able to track speed, pace and cadence, while also using sensors woven into the sole to keep track of how you run. Like Sensoria's upcoming Smart Running Shoes, the pair also uses the Sensoria Core to help track your activity.
We're still waiting on the Smart Running Shoes to land, but pairs are currently in the process of mass development and promise to provide a neat, smarter alternative to the smart running shoes market when they eventually ship in May. And since the company has history developing smart clothing and socks, we're looking forward to seeing how its first pair of shoes fares when in use.
Like Sensoria, Lumo took the decision to open up its platform to let third parties build on its algorithms and know-how for posture and coaching.
But it was actually its own Lumo Run sensor that really impressed us with its ability to offer meaningful real-time coaching and deeper insights to help improve running form.
Opening up the platform is both an intriguing and exciting move for the startup, which has already announced that it's partnering with Puma to build a cutting edge AI product.
Will it be for runners? Lumo has remained tight-lipped on that topic and any real concrete details. We are hoping it will be though, and that it launches some time in 2018.
In April last year we got a demo of Ato Gear's Arion, a running pod/connected insole aiming to give runners deeper insights and help them avoid injury.
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Since then, the company has continued refining its technology, which has been in development for over a decade, and has worked on perfecting metric feedback such as strike index, impact, power, flight time, contact time, stride length, pronation and balance. Interestingly, the pod sitting on the outside of the shoe also has GPS, meaning you don't have to take any other gadgets out with you to track your run.
The device uses AI to learn your technique and provide more efficient coaching in real time, with users able to input an injury report to further boost how the device interacts and tweaks its recommendations.
Ato Gear indicates that the Arion will launch in early 2018, and we look forward to being told off for overpronation during testing.
Milestone makes a footpod, which might not sound groundbreaking or exciting, but it is making the ability to have more running metrics at your disposal more affordable.
Rated: Running with MilestonePod
The sensor, which fits around the laces on your shoes, dishes out a host of metrics include foot strike, rate of impact, leg swing, ground contact time and cadence. It'll give you a 0-100 score based on your running efficiency and will give you a better idea of how many miles your shoes have logged and when they need to be replaced.
Recent updates now let you view data in real-time on running watches like the Garmin Fenix and the Polar M430. It's also compatible with virtual race platform Zwift and its new running mode, which is currently in beta.
We tested out the company's MilestonePod earlier this year, and despite some technical glitches and calibration concerns, we're excited to see what this startup does next for runners.
After successfully negotiating a crowdfunding campaign back in April last year, Shft was set to add its second running pod, the Shft IQ, to its line in September 2017.
The device, which leaned on smarts from Intel to bring an AI running coach to the user's ears in real time, was not only able to give runners feedback on the usual metrics – cadence, landing time, and more – but also use the data to develop training drills and learn about the user's performance over time.
Unfortunately, though the IQ was set to ship many months ago, Shft recently told Wareable that challenges have led to delays. Here's hoping the startup can get things back on course in the coming months, as its platform appeared promising for serious runners who wanted an advanced AI coach.
Scribe Labs' crowdfunding story reaches back to 2014 when it raised over $250,000 to build its wearable for data driven athletes.
Four years later, it's onto its second wearable the Plus, which aims to get all of that sweet running data out to more runners.
The second generation footpod looks near identical to the original, serving up tracking and analysis of the motion, efficiency, power, symmetry and shock of your run. That includes metrics like shock Gs, flight ratio, stride rate, foot strike type and running power.
Crucially, it's now an open platform, so you can now get real-time metrics on over 20 Garmin watches via Connect IQ and ANT/ANT+. It also plays nice with Suunto Spartan watches.
It's already been providing gait analysis for athletes and clinicians, while opening up its platform means the possibility of the tech being used in other sports and even powering the next generation of VR technology.
LifeBEAM has helped shape the wearable fortunes of big tech names like Samsung, on its Simband reference design smartwatch, and powering JBL and Under Armour's heart rate monitoring sports headphones with its bio sensing technology.
Wareable verdict: LifeBEAM Vi review
But it was only when it launched its own sports headphones, packed with an AI coach named Vi, in 2017 that people started to stand up and take notice of this ambitious wearable startup.
Vi's AI powers continue to improve with new features like treadmill training being the most recent additions to her skillset. LifeBEAM continues to evolve its technology with the help of an engaged community of users.
It has big plans and ambitions for the wearable and hearable future, and we will definitely be keeping a close eye on what it does next.
Looking to fill the gap for those without a heart rate monitor on the wrist, startup Shapeheart popped up on Kickstarter in 2017 with an armband for your phone that also builds in a heart rate monitor.
It raised double the amount of money it hoped to and successfully shipped the wearable on time in late 2017.
We've already seen the likes of Polar and Wahoo look to take heart rate monitoring higher up the arm with positive results. The idea of combining the sensor (which can be removed) with an armband that a lot of runners will most want to own anyway is a great idea.
Hopefully the team at Shapeheart still have a bunch of other smart ideas for runners up their sleeves.
After successfully raising its goal through an Indiegogo campaign late last year, Runtopia's Reach smart running shoes are currently filtering out to backers and helping runners tap into the likes of landing zones, impact rate, cadence, ground contact time, gait analysis and more.
The shoes feature a pod that places in a slot below the sole of the shoe, picking up all the data from your run and coaching you in real time. That means if your performance isn't matching your goals, you'll hear about it.
We're currently putting the Reach shoes through their paces at Wareable HQ, so be sure to look out for our full review to see whether they can amply replace your regular pavement pounders.
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